Jefferson County Schools’ busing woes never end

JeffCo Busing Plan Rolling Over Parents - Kid
We’ve written a ton of articles over the years about the expensive, environmentally unfriendly, and largely ineffective busing-for-integration effort that is still going on in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) (just search our blog using “busing Jefferson County” in the search window).

But, it looks like citizens of Kentucky’s biggest city just love to bang their head against the busing wall.

So, a new WAVE3.COM article about continuing violence on the buses is no surprise to us.

What is a surprise is the low learning curve about things that just don’t work for schools in Jefferson County. The Supreme Court figured out that busing wasn’t getting the job done years ago and dropped the mandate to bus for integration in Louisville.

Louisvillians keep on doing it to themselves, anyway, never seeming to realize that moving a black child to a school with better test scores for whites provides no guarantee that the black child will get the same education. In fact, that black child might not even wind up in the same classroom with the whites.

The WAVE3 article says that fights on Louisville’s school buses are down from 269 two years ago to 172 last year.

But, the article also says that John Stovall, president of Teamsters Local 783, the union that represents bus drivers, claims, “When some bus drivers report fights to the principal, who is the only one with the power to suspend a child from the bus, the incident is sometimes swept under the rug.” So, who knows what the real fight numbers are?

And, in 2012 the Courier-Journal pointed out that problems on the buses extend beyond fights to bullying and other forms of unruliness.

In any event, one fight is too many, but having something on the order of several hundred fights a year signals problems.

When you couple the bus violence with the evidence we assembled a couple of years ago that moving kids all over the map in Louisville didn’t result in better scores for the under-privileged kids who got sent to supposedly better schools on the East side of Louisville, it’s clearly past time for Louisville to fix its neighborhood schools, especially those in the West End. That way, students can thrive in a nearby school and parents can be close by for support, too. This would be a far better solution than burning huge amounts of diesel to operate what too often turn into rolling fight arenas.

JCPS doesn’t know how to fix those neighborhood schools you say. Then let’s – finally – try the charter school approach! We obviously need them in Louisville – and now in Lexington, too.

Kentucky needs charter schools in more places than Louisville!

A lot of people understand that Kentucky’s largest city would benefit from more school options for students including charter schools operated independent of the stifling restrictions from bureaucracy and union influences in Louisville.

Now, however, another hot prospect has emerged with a vengeance, and this time it is Lexington – not Louisville – that becomes the newest poster child for the need in Kentucky of charter school legislation.

The Herald-Leader just came alive with an article, “Education commissioner warns of state action if Fayette doesn’t support low-achieving schools,” which discusses the deplorable support the Fayette County School District has been providing to some of the very lowest performing schools in the Lexington area. The article links to a really disturbing letter from Education Commissioner Terry Holliday that charges the Fayette County Board of Education with some really significant management shortfalls.

I wonder if the commissioner would like to turn some of those schools that the Fayette County School District doesn’t seem interested in or capable of helping into charter schools. Too bad we don’t have a law right now that would allow him to do that.

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Bluegrass Beacon: Rising ER visits form another ‘Obamacare’ infection

BluegrassBeaconLogoConsidering the Obama administration’s failure to keep its promise – made by the President in public speeches at least 36 times – that “if you like your plan, you can keep it,” there should be little surprise that other claims offered by Obamacare’s Kool-Aid drinkers to sell this big-government health-care program also are bogus.

For instance, President Obama and fellow supporters of the Affordable Care Act repeatedly asserted that the strain on hospitals would be relieved as there would be fewer expensive emergency room visits.

“What about those parents whose kids have a chronic illness like asthma and have to keep on going back to the emergency room because they don’t have a regular doctor, and the bills never stop coming?” Obama asked a crowd during a speech in Maryland.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Obama’s political soulmate in Frankfort, made similar claims during his State of the Commonwealth speech to a joint General Assembly session in January.

Beshear claimed that the success of the commonwealth’s version of Obamacare – known as the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange – “means that our friends and neighbors … can be treated in an appropriate setting – not in an emergency room, the most expensive place to get care.”

Yet, a new poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians indicates that emergency room visits are rising.

A whopping 75 percent of the 2,099 physicians nationwide reported that the number of ER patients has increased since Obamacare went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014 – with 28 percent claiming the number had “increased greatly.”

Ryan Stanton, an ER physician at Baptist Health Lexington, told The Wall Street Journal that ER visits had gone up 20 percent during the first few months of 2015 compared with 10 percent last year – when the law widely expanded coverage.

Adam Ogle, director of emergency services at Baptist Health Paducah, told the Paducah Sun that emergency visits to his facility were up by more than 6 percent in 2014 over 2013 and already have grown by 5 percent this year, compared to the same period last year.

Even as Obamacare was being shoved down Americans’ IV tubes, we had to hope that the previously uninsured who now had coverage would be able to seek conventional treatment, thus relieving the pressure on ERs, to which a visit by a patient needing primary – rather than emergency – care costs $580 more per visit, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report in 2013.

Dr. Stanton points to a huge increase in volume, which was bound to happen due to the fact that a whopping majority of the formerly uninsured who now are covered receive coverage through taxpayer-funded Medicaid rather than a private plan they pay for.

Considering a shortage of primary care physicians who would accept Medicaid patients already existed before Obamacare, where did the geniuses who created this health-care boondoggle think the newly covered would go when they needed care that couldn’t wait for months until a physician could see them at the office?

To the ER, of course, which won’t turn them away.

Obamacare supporters will try to pooh-pooh this survey, claiming it’s anecdotal.

Yet while it may not be absolutely conclusive, the survey offers a realistic view of what’s happening on the ground rather than the rosy rhetoric offered on the campaign trail.

Plus, plenty of rigorous data – again available even before Obamacare was implemented – showed that expanding Medicaid increases the strain on emergency rooms.

Since the Obama and Beshear administrations don’t have a solution for that problem, they choose to simply ignore it and act like Kentucky and the nation has cured its crisis of uninsured citizens.

They’re still failing to treat this condition.

But if you leave an infection untreated, won’t it only grow worse?

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

As reality sets in, Kentucky’s new mandatory Age 18 dropout law gets interesting

If you currently are a 16- or 17-year old dropout in Kentucky, you are going to be forced back into school.

This news comes from an interesting Herald-Leader story that ran yesterday about what is happening as Kentucky’s new mandatory minimum dropout age of 18 takes effect.

Per the Herald-Leader, both the school districts and the court system are sending out notices to 16- and 17-year old dropouts that they have to register and show up when school begins again in August. There is no grandfathering clause in recent legislation that moved the minimum age in Kentucky to 18.

And, like lots of legislation built around coercion, the best intentions may result in unintended consequences.

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Guest op-ed: Stumbo stumbles on right-to-work


Dr. Cameron Schaeffer

Right-to-Work logoNo child is taught to spend more than he earns, or is encouraged to accumulate debt. Yet we have no shortage of spenders and borrowers eager to give economic advice.

In a recent op-ed, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, suggests that workers in right-to-work states who enjoy union representation without paying dues are freeloaders.

When a Democrat complains about freeloaders, it’s time to put down the coffee.

Stumbo says that right-to-work hurts unions. Well, that depends.

If 5 percent of a right-to-work state’s workforce is union and if that state enjoys significant economic growth through good economic policy, more union jobs will be created than in a 10 percent union state with bad economic policy and little economic growth. Ten percent of nothing is still nothing, even in Frankfort.

A good leader imagines possibilities and acts.

How many Kentucky businesses have decided not to expand because of their union labor costs? How many companies considering expansion or relocation ignore Kentucky because it’s a union shop?

Stumbo says employment numbers are improving, but he cannot attribute that improvement to Kentucky’s union status. Arguing that Washington’s debt binge is kicking in would be more plausible.

The truth is that economic growth is maximized by pro-growth economic policies, including right-to-work. The more something costs, the less it’s traded – including labor.

Any artifice that raises the price of labor – whether it’s a minimum wage or a prevailing (union) wage – will decrease jobs. Just ask the newly unemployed in Seattle and San Francisco, where minimum wages were recently raised to $15 per hour. Or ask the unemployed Kentuckian who cannot negotiate his own price.

Stumbo gushes that Georgetown’s Toyota remains non-union; the United Auto Workers are less enthused.

If it were up to the UAW, not only would Toyota be union, it would have been converted long ago and without a secret ballot. The tough thing about a secret ballot is that it’s impossible to figure out whose door to knock on in the middle of the night.

Right-to-work is not just an economic issue.

Imagine a Tennessee businesswoman who employs people she considers her extended family. She may not want to expand into Kentucky where her employees could be forced to bankroll suited men who used to get dirty and organizations with which they politically disagree. Perhaps she values her employees’ freedom of conscience and choice, as well as her own freedom of contract.

Stumbo does not mention that most union political money goes to Democrats, or that unions have a long history of beating down competition from unskilled workers – particularly poor black workers.

Black unemployment once mirrored white unemployment; however, during the Great Depression, unions helped pass prevailing-wage laws like the Davis-Bacon Act, which sacrifices poor workers willing to sell their labor at a lower price.

Since the New Deal, the nation’s poor have been beneficiaries of government largesse, and they have understandably shifted their political support to their benefactors.

President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty. It’s difficult to thresh out compassion from his cynical calculation to grow, solidify and entrench the poor’s support of Democrats.

Republicans freed black Americans, argued for full citizenship for decades and eventually provided the majority of the votes for the Civil Rights Act.

Fishing for votes, big-government Democrats entangled blacks in safety nets – a different type of bondage; $20 trillion dollars buys a lot of political support, and a lot of human misery.

The payoff has been particularly big for Democrats in Baltimore; their decades-old political success was recently illuminated by bonfires.

When something is wrong, it’s time to check one’s premises.

Where they have been ruled by Democrats for decades, the poor should check their premises. After seeing the success of right-to-work states, Kentuckians should check theirs, too.

Dr. Cameron S. Schaeffer is a pediatric urologist who practices in Lexington and Louisville.



Public input sought on traits for next Kentucky education commissioner

The Kentucky Board of Education is seeking public input on traits it should consider when selecting Kentucky’s next commissioner of education.

Full details on the comment process and a working draft of the current list of desired traits are discussed in Kentucky Department of Education News Release 15-052. BIPPS readers are encouraged to take a look and see if other things are desirable in our new education commissioner.
Here is the news release:


No. 15-052 May 15, 2015

MEDIA CONTACT: Nancy Rodriguez
Office: (502) 564-2000, ext. 4610 | Cell: (502) 330-5063 | E-mail:


(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Kentucky Board of Education is seeking public input on traits it should consider when selecting Kentucky’s next commissioner of education.

Current Commissioner Terry Holliday announced in April that he is retiring, effective August 31.

At a special board meeting on May 7, the board discussed a number of traits and characteristics that members believe are important for the next commissioner to possess. Those have been assembled into a draft document on which the board would like public feedback. The board will consider the feedback before finalizing its list, which will be used for the job posting and to evaluate potential candidates.

Board members have stressed that their primary goal is to seek an individual who shares its commitment to putting the needs and interests of students first and foremost and preparing them for success in their education, career and citizenship.

The board also identified the following overall expectations for anyone seeking the position:

  • possesses the appropriate professional qualifications and passion to lead and champion the public education system of the commonwealth
  • primarily driven to advance student achievement and student success, a leader whose central focus is on improving results for students, and a person who has a sense of urgency to reach educational equity for all students
  • exhibits the capacity to engage, involve, motivate, and inspire the educators who have assumed the opportunity to educate the state’s next generation
  • balances a combination of relentless focus on the student with that of managing the system to support the people who are getting the work accomplished
  • displays the highest moral and intellectual integrity, is honest and open, pursues difficult issues with a firmness of purpose, exhibits respect of others, shows consistency and depth of thought, and presents a deep appreciation and respect for diversity and inclusion

Additionally, the board has identified a number of specific traits that the successful candidate must possess. Those qualities fall into three main areas: communication, knowledge and experience, and leadership and change management.

A working draft of all of the characteristics for Kentucky’s next commissioner of education is available on the Kentucky Department of Education website. Those wishing to comment or provide additional input are encouraged to submit their feedback through an online survey available here. The survey will close at 5 p.m. ET on May 29.

The board is tentatively scheduled to finalize the traits and characteristics for Kentucky’s next commissioner of education during its regularly scheduled board meeting June 2 and 3 in Frankfort. Board members have indicated that they would like fill the position by the time Holliday leaves, but have said that hiring the right individual is the most important consideration.

The board has hired the Florida firm of Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc. to manage the commissioner of education search.

News Alert: Monday’s town hall meeting at the National Corvette Museum: Right-to-work works for Kentucky communities


Right-to-Work logo

For Immediate Release: Friday, May 15                                                                

Contact: Jim Waters (270) 320-4376

(BOWLING GREEN, Ky.) — Join the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s first and only free-market think tank, and several other national and statewide groups and representatives at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green (Exit 28 @ I-65) on Monday, May 18, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (central) for a town hall meeting on the local right-to-work movement.

“In an effort to accomplish what the political gridlock in Frankfort has thwarted, local officials in several counties have passed their own right-to-work laws in a bipartisan manner for the good of their constituents,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said. “Right-to-work policies attract businesses and grow economies by giving individual workers the freedom to say ‘no’ to union membership without losing their jobs.”

Monday’s event, which is being hosted by the Americans for Tax Reform’s Center for Worker Freedom, will include a panel discussion of lawmakers and experts to assist workers, business owners, manager and all Kentuckians interested in learning more about how right-to-work policies work and how employees can exercise their freedoms concerning union membership and dues.

“What Kentucky counties have done is only the beginning of a nationwide movement by local governments to advance their own prosperity and freedom by bypassing the gridlock in their state capitals, Matt Patterson, executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom, said. “This path to right-to-work is open in many states, but Kentucky’s strong and very clear home rule statute made it the best place to begin this effort.”

Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, will lead the panel discussion, which will include Ron Bunch, president and CEO of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, Matt Patterson, executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom, and Jon Crosby, field representative for Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Louisville attorney Jason Nemes of Fultz Maddox Dickens PLC, co-counsel for Hardin County in UAW v. Hardin County will address the legal rationale for county right-to-work policies.

Since Warren County’s Fiscal Court on December 19 voted overwhelmingly to become America’s first-right-to-work county, Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon reported that the community now has made it on the site-selection lists of around 50 companies looking to expand or relocate. These companies represent more than 5,000 new jobs and more than $800 million in capital investment.

No, most Kentucky KPREP scores are not that close to NAEP scores

The Kentucky Department of Education sent out News Release 15-051 yesterday, which contains some inaccurate information about how the state’s KPREP test compares to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). While the release claims “Kentucky Among Handful of States with Reliable Test Scores,” that might be stretching things.

To begin, the term “Reliable” has specific meaning when we are talking about tests. This gets technical, but you can read about the formal meaning of test reliability here if you want. In any event – unless I missed something – the news release does not seem to refer to any formal determination of test reliability for Kentucky’s Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress tests (KPREP). In fact, I don’t know if any formal reliability studies have been completed for KPREP. Perhaps the media staff at the department just made an unfortunate selection of terms, but the news release needs a correction.

There are more problems because claims in this release are math-challenged.

For example, someone solved their Common Core school year math line problem wrong. The news release talks about a comparison of NAEP and KPREP scores for the 2013-14 school term. Well, that’s wrong. The most recently available State NAEP math and reading results are for the mid-to-late winter administration in early 2013. That was during the 2012-13 school year. If someone compared 2013-14 KPREP scores to 2013 NAEP scores, that was a bit apples to oranges because different students would have taken the different tests. Furthermore, it is unnecessary to do such a cross-year comparison because we have 2013 KPREP results for the same Kentucky fourth and eighth grade students who took the NAEP in 2013.

There is another, more involved math error, as well. It has to do with this quote from Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday in the news release:

“The report verifies the increased rigor of our assessments; statistically, we are well within NAEP standard error of measurement.”

Let’s explore the problem with the commissioner’s statement.

The NAEP is a sampled assessment, so there are plus and minus errors in the scores just like we hear about all the time with sampled polls of likely voting patterns in elections. However, the people who create the NAEP provide information on how to calculate those plus and minus errors. I used that information to find out if the commissioner was right in claiming Kentucky’s KPREP math and reading scores for 2013 fell within the plus and minus error range for the NAEP.

This simplified table shows what I found.

Table 1

Simplified Table

In almost every case, even with the maximum likely error correction added to the NAEP scores, the difference in the proficiency rates from that federal test and the KPREP is on the order of 10 percentage points. To be sure, that is much better than we had with the old CATS tests, but parents still need to be wary if their student’s scores are only a little above the KPREP proficiency minimum. That could indicate that their child is going to have problems in college.

By the way, parents of high school students probably have things a bit better. Under KPREP, high school students currently are tested with products developed by the ACT, Inc. So, the results should be on target with the actual ACT test. But, the NAEP indicates this is small consolation for parents of younger students, some of whom may not really be on track although they are getting Proficient scores in KPREP.

To be clear, Kentucky’s KPREP is certainly more rigorous than the old CATS assessments. But, comparisons to the NAEP show KPREP may not be rigorous enough. It may not be safe to assume your child is on target just because he or she gets a proficient score in KPREP. And, most KPREP tests are not as rigorous as the NAEP.

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Bluegrass Beacon: Social worker’s right-to-work ‘research’ is shaky

0BluegrassBeaconLogoNot only is there a real gap in economic growth between states with and without right-to-work policies, but the chasm between those who write papers from ivory towers and local leaders fighting in the trenches to bring jobs to their communities has never been wider.

Take, for instance, a recent attempt by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy to slow the momentum of counties passing right-to-work laws by issuing a paper denying the reality of many locally elected county leaders statewide: losing out on attracting jobs for their constituents because our state lacks a right-to-work law, which simply allows individual employees who work at union plants to say “yes” or “no” to paying dues without losing their jobs or otherwise being penalized.

“Local leaders maintain that the push to turn Kentucky into a RTW state, county by county, is motivated by the idea that doing so will create jobs, but that idea is not supported by rigorous research,” writes Anna Baumann, the policy center’s research and policy associate whose bio shows a background in social work.

“Plus, she also considers herself a farmer,” her website bio states.

But an economist she is not. In fact, I couldn’t find the bio of a single economist on the entire Kentucky Center for Economic Policy website.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a social worker or farmer – those are worthy endeavors that play vital roles in our society.

However, if you’re going to challenge local leaders with claims that “rigorous research” nullifies their actual experience of losing jobs and investment that manufacturers would bring to their counties if the state had a right-to-work policy, shouldn’t you at least possess the economic chops to make such claims?

Also, you probably shouldn’t ignore what’s happening in Michigan, where, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 142,000 more people are employed and private-sector weekly earnings have increased 5.4 percent since the Great Lakes State became the 24th state to pass a right-to-work law in December 2012.

Before the fiscal court in Boone County – the commonwealth’s fourth-largest county – recently became the 12th Kentucky locality to approve such a policy, Trey Grayson, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, told magistrates that Boone “needs this is our economic toolbox.”

Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore told the court that leaders of Tri-ED, an economic-development group in the greater Cincinnati area in northern Kentucky, informed him that passing a right-to-work ordinance would give his county a significant competitive advantage over regions without such policies.

Baumann mentions “conversations with site consultants and economic development officials” in downplaying the impact that the lack of a right-to-work policy has on Kentucky’s growth and yet fails to identify her sources.

Meanwhile, many site-selection consultants are on the record – including in past editions of this column – each of whom clearly has the expertise and experience to speak to this issue.

What they say, without fail, is that right-to-work policies matter to companies – particularly manufacturers – with whom they consult and that are looking to expand or relocate.

Before Boone County’s court passed its right-to-work ordinance – becoming the largest county in the commonwealth to do so – Jim McGraw of KMK Consulting, a site-selection consultant who works frequently with Northern Kentucky counties, told Boone’s fiscal court: “on any kind of level playing field, right to work is going to make the difference.”

It certainly is in Michigan, Indiana and even in Warren County, Kentucky, where phones are ringing briskly as local leaders field calls that represent the potential of new jobs, expanded opportunities and the kind of economic growth being enjoyed by other states.

Isn’t this the kind of economic progress that “progressives” like social workers, farmers and even the Democratic leaders at the state House should support?

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

Kentucky’s graduation rate news sounds good, BUT

A new report jointly released by the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University is causing a celebratory stir here in Kentucky (such as here and here).

The report says that Kentucky’s public high school graduation rate in 2013 ranked as 10th best in the nation.

This is true, but the statistic is nothing new. It is a rehash of information from the US Department of Education that I blogged about back in January.

And, the cheering may be premature. Click the “Read more” link to find out why.

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